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Historic Victory for United Kisan Struggle

December 03, 2021 01:48 AM

Vijoo Krishnan

THERE are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen. In keeping with this adage, Indian kisans wrote a new chapter in history defying all prophecies of imminent defeat and canards claiming that the united kisan movement was petering out. The united kisan struggle with the unprecedented support of the working class and the masses has won a historic victory forcing the arrogant Narendra Modi led BJP government to bend down on its knees, tender an apology to farmers and announce the decision to repeal the three anti-farmer acts. This victory has come at a huge human cost and over 700 farmers became martyrs in the course of the struggle. It has come at the cost of extreme sacrifice by millions of peasants and workers as well as their families. The prime minister and the BJP government are directly culpable for the loss of precious lives. As the adage goes, this victory will have a cascading impact on the politics of this country; fragility of personalities considered invincible has been exposed and the castles built on lies are also crumbling down.

The three laws brought by the BJP government are as per the diktats of the global imperialist trinity of WB-IMF-WTO which has been pressurising India to cut farm and food subsidies as well as for dismantling public stockholding. This was articulated in 2014 by the Shanta Kumar Commission set up by the present regime which openly called for liberalisation and privatisation of stockholding as well as dismantling of the price support system for crops. The three laws brought simultaneously with the labour codes that snatch away the hard-won rights of the workers including eight-hour work days and unionisation came amidst a pandemic. While the peasants, workers and toiling masses were kept under lockdown, the BJP government literally unlocked the doors for corporate loot. The three laws would lead to dismantling of government regulated agricultural produce markets that had come into being to protect farmers from traders who were exploiting them, it would open doors for unlimited corporate hoarding and black-marketing of essential commodities like rice, wheat, pulses, oilseeds, potatoes and onions even when there is shortage, famine or other emergencies. They would promote unequal corporate contract farming in which poor farmers will become workers on their own land with no scope for legal recourse even if disputes arise. Literally it would allow corporate profiteering at the expense of the farmers, agricultural labour and the hungry millions. It did not take long for farmers to realise that it was a “do or die” moment for them.

The farmers’ struggle against the three anti-farmer legislations which began in June 2020 immediately after the ordinances were brought saw a qualitative change in November 2020 when on November 26 the Central Trade Unions gave the call for a general strike. The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) called for Delhi Chalo from states neighbouring Delhi on November 26-27 and a Grameen Bharat Hartal on November 26 on demands of the peasantry as well as in solidarity with the working class. The BJP government dealt with the farmers marching to Delhi brutally. Trenches were dug up on the national highways, huge shipping containers placed in addition to barricades wound with barbed wire; water-cannons, teargas and lathicharge was used to stop the peaceful march from reaching Delhi. Farmers overcame all these hurdles and have been sitting on the borders of Delhi for the last 12 months.

The BJP-RSS, the government propaganda machinery, the corporate media carried out a malicious campaign against the farmers with the prime minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and agriculture minister Narendra Tomar spearheading it. All canards painting the farmers as terrorists, accusing the struggle as being supported by Khalistanis or at the behest of Pakistan or China have been given a fitting rebuff by the people of our country. Threats, intimidation and arrests have not deterred farmers; cutting of internet, electricity and water as well as physical attacks by Sanghi goons, building of concrete walls with barbed wire fencing and planting sharp iron spikes around struggle sites to convert them into open jails and deter farmers also failed. The prime minister mocked protesting farmers as ‘andolanjeevis’ and parasites. They had belittled the struggle as anti-national and made all efforts to malign it. This victory has triumphed over all such attacks. The farmers and people of India shall not forget the extreme repression, brutal attacks, the killing of our comrades and the insults hurled at farmers. We shall not forget the concrete walls, the barbed wires and barricades, the trenches dug, spikes planted, insults hurled, the water cannons, teargas, the clampdown on internet, attacks on journalists. Everything shall be remembered.

The struggle against the 2020 farm laws is historic. The sheer scale of the protests is remarkable. The prolonged struggle in bitter cold, heavy rain and peak summer has had a huge human cost. The scale at which solidarity has been created among different sections of the working people is historic. The manner in which farmers have braved the repression and extreme weather conditions has won the hearts of many. Support poured in from other sections of the working people as well as various organisations. Villages from neighbouring areas of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh have ensured that there is no shortage of food supplies to protest sites. Working class came out in a big way to support financially and also ensure availability of blankets and tents. Farmers themselves have shown an incredible organisational capacity as tractor trolleys have been turned into homes, camp sites created, massive langars (community food stalls) set up and arrangements made for accessing basic amenities. The force with which the farmers have struck the ruling classes is historic.

On January 26, millions of people participated in the historic Mazdoor Kisan Parade across the country. Around the National Capital Region hundreds of thousands of tractors and other vehicles participated in the parade after hoisting the national flag, singing the national anthem and paying homage to the martyrs. It is for the first time since August 15, 1947 that such large number of Indian citizens led by the peasantry celebrated Republic Day. The ‘Resistance Day’ and Bharat Bandhs called had millions of farmers, agricultural labour, workers and other sections of society taking part in protests. What started as a farmers’ movement has become a people’s movement with the working class, women, students, youth and oppressed sections taking active part.

Even as the prime minister and the BJP government claimed that the movement was restricted to Punjab alone we saw it spread across the country and Delhi’s borders had wide representation from across India. Farmers from Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Assam, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Bengal, Odisha and other states also joined in big numbers in addition to state-specific mobilisations. Even amidst a pandemic, the peasantry and workers incessantly came out on the streets against the Acts as well as against each attack on farmers. The working class, the scheme workers like Anganwadi, ASHA, Mid-Day Meal Workers, women, students and youth also came out in big numbers. The AIKS, CITU and AIAWU along with different mass organisations worked to broaden the movement. Farmers in different states have carried out a ‘Boycott Adani-Ambani; Boycott Corporate Cronies’ campaign, Toll-Free Movement of Vehicles and it has become a Pan-Indian movement transcending into a truly people’s movement. The issue-based movement led by the AIKSCC and Samyukta Kisan Morcha against the three anti-farmer acts, seeking legal guarantee for MSP and withdrawal of amendments to Electricity Act also immediately added repeal of anti-worker labour codes and other burning issues like relief for people affected by pandemic, income support, universal vaccination as well as curb on price rise in its set of demands.

The Central Trade Unions also added the demands of the farmers and coordinated, united protests including historic strike, Bharat Bandh supported by all working class organisations, Left Parties and many opposition parties and other programmes like rail-roko were held. The coordinated efforts of the SKM and the Central Trade Unions as well as united struggles by workers and peasants add to the sharpness of recent mobilisations. All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has played a significant role in creating such an atmosphere along with many organisations of the peasantry and agricultural labour. AIKS, AIAWU and the CITU had an intensive two week-long campaign against corporate loot and insensitivity of the Narendra Modi led BJP government in all the states. This was followed by a massive protest action on August 9, 2021 on the anniversary of the Quit India Movement with the slogan “Stop Corporate Loot; Save India”.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha had during the just concluded assembly elections taken a position that the arrogant pro-corporate, anti-farmer, anti-people approach of the BJP should be exposed and carried out a “No Vote for Anti-Farmer BJP” campaign. This was with an opinion that a political defeat is also important to resist the efforts to allow corporate take-over of agriculture and counter policies promoting corporate loot. It is also a strong message against the deliberate efforts to foment communal tension and polarise the society. The election results have been a major setback to the BJP. The mammoth Kisan Mazdoor Mahapanchayat attended by a million people on September 5, 2021 at Muzaffarnagar called for Mission Uttar Pradesh, Mission Punjab and Mission Uttarakhand to defeat the anti-farmer, anti-people BJP in the forthcoming elections. It also sent a resolute message of communal harmony from a place which had a few years back witnessed a communal carnage. This is the result of a meticulous and conscious intervention, weaving an issue-based unity of diverse organisations and giving it a political direction against the pro-corporate, communal and authoritarian politics represented by the BJP. AIKS and fraternal organisations mobilised more than 20,000 people for the mahapanchayat.

The success of Mission UP, Mission Uttarakhand and Mission Punjab is very important to give a rebuff to the BJP and to force the government to meet the demands of the peasantry. A defeat for the BJP will also determine the course of politics in India and have a bearing in protection of Indian Constitution, democracy and secularism. It is also the fear of a looming political defeat that has forced Narendra Modi to announce that the three Acts would be repealed.

The message from the farmers is clear: the struggle will not end; it will be intensified till the all the demands are met. This is the resolve of the united movement of the peasants and workers. The Lucknow Kisan mahapanchayat, the November 26 action across India and all other protest programmes stand. The Central Trade Unions have decided for a two-day strike and the peasantry will be there in their fight shoulder to shoulder with the toiling masses. The workers and peasants have transcended fear in the course of this historic struggle, they are asserting like Subramanya Bharati said ‘even if the sky would crumble and fall we have no fear, we have no fear, we have no fear at all.’ Workers and peasants have sown fear in the minds of the ruling classes. Decades will happen in the coming weeks; our struggle for a pro-people alternative will emerge victorious.

 

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